Steel String Acoustic Guitarmaking Class

Welcome to the SIMSCal steel string acoustic guitarmaking class. This class is limited to the making of one of the following styles/sizes of steel string acoustic guitar:

  • Dreadnought
    The most popular choice among guitarmakers for their first instrument.
  • 000 (“Triple Oh”) or OM (Orchestra Model)
    The second most popular choice, both the 000 and the OM have the same body, and for our purposes, 14 frets to the neck joint. The only difference is the scale length: The 000 has a 24.9″ scale length, and the OM has a 25.4″ scale length.
  • Parlor-size guitar
    A not-so-big guitar with a surprisingly big sound.

Process Overview

In overview, the guitarmaking process is easy: the body and neck are made separately, then  joined together with a mortise-and-tenon joint. Then, add the fretboard, fret it, add the bridge, nut, saddle, tuners, and strings, and there you have it — a guitar that is “in the white,” ready for finish. For a road map to steel string guitar construction, check the class outline at the end of this page.

Construction Features

Here are a few high-end construction features that will be used in our guitars.

  • Spline-Joint Neck Attachment
    It’s a mortise-and-tenon joint, like a dovetail joint, but simpler — and more forgiving — to make.
  • Radiused Top And Back
    Examine the body of an acoustic guitar and you will notice that both the top and the back are subtly “domed” or “arched” — the back a little more than the top. “Radius” refers to the  curvature of the dome. Tops and backs are radiused to add strength and improve tone.
  • Scarf-Joint Headstock
    The scarf-jointed headstock is favored for two reasons. First, it is stronger and more stable than a one-piece neck/headstock. It is also more economical — and environmentally more “correct” —   than a one-piece neck. More strength at less cost; an easy call.

Safety and Tools

  • Safety
    Notice that we put “Safety” first. Safety is the number one concern in the shop. Accordingly, there will be instruction on the proper use of all tools, including bandsaw, drill press, routers, and thickness sander, used in the class. Before starting, you will be required to sign a liability waiver.
  • Tools
    SIMSCal will provide all the specialty tools and fixtures necessary to complete your guitar. But, to complete an instrument within the ambitious 20 week schedule, you will need to do some “home” work, which will require a minimum number of common shop hand tools, including ruler, chisel, utility knife, scraper, etc.  More information about this in the first class.


Traditional steel string tonewoods include spruce for the top — Sitka spruce is particularly well-suited for larger guitars, and Engelmann spruce a very good choice for smaller guitars. East Indian Rosewood and mahogany are traditional back and side woods.

Pre-Class Meeting — Safety and Tonewood Selection

To be determined.

***Bring The Following To The First Class Session***

Good information, but not necessary to bring to class:


2023 Class Dates

To be determined.

Steel String Acoustic Class Outline


  • Tonewood Selection
  • Back
    • Joint, Join and Brace the Back
  • Top
    • Joint and Join the top
    • Inlay Rosette
    • Brace
  • Rims
    • Bend the Sides
    • With Sides in the Mattingly Mold,
      • Glue in the Endblocks
      • Radius the Rims
      • Glue in the Linings
    • Index the Rims to Accept the Brace Ends
    • Glue Top and Back to Rims
    • Rout Rims for Binding and Purfling and Glue them in.


  • Neck
    • Scarf Joint
    • Add the Heel
    • Rout the Truss Rod Channel
    • Laminate the Headplate Veneer
    • Rout Profiles with Templates; Drill Tuner Holes
    • Shape the Heel, Shaft, and Headstock Transition
  • Fretboard
    • Slot and Rout


  • Rims
    • Flatten at the Neck Joint and Rout Mortise
  • Neck
    • Flatten at the Heel and Rout Mortise
    • Make Tenon
  • Glue the Neck to the Rims
  • Glue the Fretboard to the Neck & Body


  • Lecture / Handout, But No Demonstration


  • Bridge
  • Nut & Saddle
  • Setup